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JUNE 29-30, 2001 9 TAMUZ 5761

Pop Quiz: Which king did Hashem tell Moshe not to fear in battle?

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

The symbol for healing that we are all familiar with is a serpent on a staff, and this comes from the perashah of the week. When the Jewish people spoke against Hashem and Moshe, they were bitten by snakes and other animals, and turned to Moshe for help. Hashem told him to fashion a snake onto a staff and let the Jewish people look at it, and they will be cured. The Rabbis ask, "Does a snake on a stick cure just by looking at it?" The answer is that as they looked up, their heart turned to Hashem, and they realized that our Father in Heaven can do anything, and they rededicated themselves to Him. Then Hashem removed the illness because it was just a tool to get them closer to Him.

As we go through life today, we invariably have to go to doctors and use medicine. Although we don't see the serpent on the staff, we must "look upwards" and remember that Hashem is the Master Healer. He is the one who sent the illness and He is the one who can remove it. Every time we take even an aspirin, we should say a small prayer that Hashem should bring us to a complete recovery. We should also rededicate ourselves to Him and to His service so that the need for the illness will not be there, and this way we will have a full recovery. Shabbat Shalom.

- Rabbi Reuven Semah

"This is the decree of the Torah" (Bemidbar 19:2)

A true story. In a certain town the local church ordered that a debate take place between a priest and a Jew, chosen by the Jewish community. Each one could ask the other any question about religion. The first to admit that he does not know the answer to his opponent's question would be thrown into the sea. Unfortunately, these occasions had happened before and the Jewish person was very limited as to what he could say without enraging the volatile masses. Furthermore, rather than being a means of seeking the truth, the entire point was to humiliate the Jews and even the greatest Rabbis would become confused and tongue-tied, and unable to answer the simplest questions. Therefore, it was difficult to find a volunteer to endanger his life and face the priest. In this case a simple tailor came forward and confidently offered to take on the debate. The leaders had no choice but to put forth the tailor as their choice. When the priest saw that his opponent was a push-over, he generously allowed the fellow to ask the first question. "When Hashem asked Kayin where his brother was," the confident tailor began without a delay, "Kayin replied 'lo yadati.' What is the meaning of that pasuk?" "I don't know," replied the priest, giving the correct translation. The officers who were waiting to hear an admission that one was unable to answer a question, immediately took action and grabbed the priest and threw him into the sea, leaving the tailor with a resounding victory.

The stunned Jews later asked the tailor how he thought of such a brilliant idea. He said, "When I learn humash, I always use the translation. For years I looked into the translation for lo yadati, and the author said, 'I don't know.' So I figured that if the translator didn't know, for sure the priest wouldn't know!"

Rabbi Kimelman learns from this story a great lesson that is connected with our perashah, which discusses Parah Adumah. Parah Adumah, the law of the red heifer (cow) which purifies the people from impurity, is a hok, a law which humans cannot comprehend. Living in today's society, it is difficult for us to comprehend that there can be any value to not knowing something. However, the flood of information that flows around the world instantaneously causes many problems and stress. Because of this it is important to realize that we can't know and understand everything. Just as the salvation of that town came through the simple faith of the tailor who knew it was impossible to know everything, so will we be redeemed from our exile when we learn the lesson of the Parah Adumah. We must realize that knowledge is most important when it is the knowledge that a human being cannot know everything. To know Hashem is G-d, and there is nothing besides Him is the most important think to know. It is not what you know, but Who you know. Shabbat Shalom.


"This is the decree of the Torah...and they shall take unto you a completely red heifer" (Bemidbar 19:2)

The Midrash relates that when Moshe ascended to the Heavens, he heard the voice of Hashem teaching the angels the perashah of Parah Adumah. Why does this misvah assume such an exalted place before Hashem? The following may be suggested. Hukim (Divine ordinances whose purpose or meaning are not necessarily understood by human intelligence) and mishpatim (civil laws that promulgate the safety and survival of society whose rationale may be grasped by human intelligence) are two distinct sets of misvot. Just as there are two forms of misvot, so too are there contrasting situations in life. There are moments in our existence when the Jew is respected, his religion is held in esteem, and his lifestyle is not subject to abuse and ridicule. During such times, studying Torah and fulfilling misvot may be compared to mishpatim, since we have every reason and opportunity to properly perform Hashem's misvot. The tribulations of everyday existence are not in opposition to their observance. Not so, when our people are faced with terrible circumstances which warrant our vigilance against those who seek to destroy us. When we are suffering continued harassment and insult, and whichever way we turn, our ultimate faith in Hashem is questioned. At such moments in our existence, our faith in Hashem may be compared to a form of hukim. There is no logical reason for believing in Him, other than our strict and unfailing trust in Hashem. It is for this reason, and for these moments in our history, that Hashem loves the concept of hukim. The ultimate test of our faith and trust in Him is when this trust defies human reasoning and intelligence. (Peninim on the Torah)


"Take the staff...and speak to the rock before their eyes that it shall give its waters" (Bemidbar 20:8)

What purpose was the staff to serve and what was Moshe to say to the rock? Aharon and Moshe each had his own staff. When Hashem wanted Moshe or Aharon to take his own staff, He would say "matecha - your staff" (see Shemot 7:9). Since in this pasuk it says "hamateh - the staff," obviously it was a special one with unique qualities.

In Parashat Korah, Moshe told the leaders of each tribe to bring a staff to be put in the Tabernacle. On each would be written the name of the tribal leader, with Aharon's name written on the staff of the tribe of Levi. The staff belonging to the one who was Divinely-chosen would blossom. The staff of Aharon blossomed and produced almonds and eventually was put next to the holy Ark for posterity. It was this staff that Moshe was to take. This corresponds to the verse, "Moshe took the staff from before G-d" (20:9). The purpose of taking the staff was to show it to the rock as if to say, "Learn this lesson; just as this dry piece of wood suddenly became moist and alive in order to sanctify Hashem's name, so should you sanctify Hashem's name by giving water, even though it is not your nature." (Vedibarta Bam)


This week's Haftarah: Shoftim 11:1-33.

At the end of our perashah, Moshe sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Emorim, requesting permission to pass through their land. When they refused and came out to attack, Israel wiped them out and took over their lands. In this haftarah, the nation of Amon attacked Israel, seeking to recapture these lands. Yiftah, the Jewish leader, sent emissaries to Amon, detailing the events that took place in this perashah, explaining that Hashem had turned the lands over to Israel. When Amon did not withdraw, Yiftah attacked and defeated them.


After Miriam's death, there was a shortage of water, and B'nei Yisrael complained to Moshe. Hashem commanded Moshe to speak to the rock to bring out water from it. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moshe struck the rock with his staff and water gushed from the rock. Hashem then told Moshe and Aharon that due to their failure to sanctify His Name in this incident, they would not be allowed to enter the land of Israel. Various explanations are offered to explain what Moshe's sin was, but what did Aharon do wrong? Our Sages explain that his "sin" was that he did not speak up and try to stop Moshe from doing what he did. Aharon was in a position to prevent the error but he remained silent.

Question: What situations do we sometimes come across in which we can step in and try to correct the person, and prevent him from doing wrong? How can we do it in a way that he will be more inclined to accept our criticism, and act upon it?

Answer to Pop Quiz: Og, king of Bashan.

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